"The procedurally generated elements seem to undermine the games core horror elements and cause enough frustration that most players will be unlikely to give it another playthrough."
One look at the maze-like design of the title card, and you can imagine what Daylight has in store for you. As a procedurally generated horror title, a large portion of the game is spent navigating the labyrinthine hallways that link together certain scripted areas. The design is intended to add replay value, giving players the opportunity to have a different maze to solve every time they play. In reality, the procedurally generated elements seem to undermine the games core horror elements and cause enough frustration that most players will be unlikely to give it another playthrough.
The game opens with the player’s character, Sarah Mercer, waking up in an abandoned hospital with no memory of how she got there, armed with only a cell phone and a wicked sleeve tattoo. Using the phone as both a light source and map, you spend the game trying to escape the grounds while trying to piece together what exactly you are doing there. In order to progress, you need to scour each level for Remnants (notes, newspaper clippings and the like) to unlock an exit, using glowsticks to highlight collectibles and lighting flares to keep you safe from the witches that populate each map. The games scares come mostly from the witches themselves, with a few randomly generated moments of moving furniture or phantom footsteps thrown in for good measure. While the witches themselves almost never failed to cause the hairs on the back of my neck to rise, the other little scares never seemed to sustain their threat beyond the first few instances. For one example, as you explore the game’s first level, you will often see IV carts rolling across the floor by themselves. The problem is, neither the player nor the witches can move the carts even if they tried, so there is never any doubt or greater threat that emerges.
"The cellphone map is barely any help, as it doesn’t highlight doors or anything else that might guide you to something you missed, and once you find yourself spending this much time stranded in the maze, the witches themselves become more of an annoyance than a source of fear."
On the other hand, when the screen on Sarah’s phone begins to crackle and you begin to hear a witch whispering behind you, it’s obvious an attack is imminent. Most of the time, I could just wait it out until they want on their merry way, but turning around after the musical cues had ended only to have the witch come right at my face still managed to make me jump late into the game. No matter what players might think of the Daylight’s scare tactics, finding the missing Remnants scattered throughout each level becomes too frustrating to really delve into the game’s atmosphere, anyway. During the Prison level, I found myself exploring the same dead ends seven or eight times, desperate to find the final glowing note that would allow me to progress. The cellphone map is barely any help, as it doesn’t highlight doors or anything else that might guide you to something you missed, and once you find yourself spending this much time stranded in the maze, the witches themselves become more of an annoyance than a source of fear. After finally finding my new way through the prison and feeling like I was making progress again—after having not encountered a witch for much of that time—I was suddenly descended upon by four of them in a row, which caused me to use up the rest of my flares and forced me to start the level from the beginning. It’s not scary, it’s just flat bad design.
"Daylight is difficult to recommend to even the most adamant horror fans, and is unlikely to be the stepping stone for a new player into the genre."
To make matters worse, the game’s story doesn’t really develop into anything significant. Each Remnant suggests something greater is going on, but after reading note after note describing another prisoner or inmate by a seemingly random number, it soon becomes clear that there is very little overall coherence to the narrative. This is another instance in when the randomly generated sequences seem to undermine the game, as there are more Remnants in the game than it is possible to collect in a single playthrough. This means that the vast majority of them have to be treated as expendable from a storytelling perspective. By a third of the way through, I was barely scanning any of them, and they failed to tie into the game’s ending in any meaningful way. Daylight is difficult to recommend to even the most adamant horror fans, and is unlikely to be the stepping stone for a new player into the genre. And while the procedurally generated levels seem to work most of the time, they undermine what could have been a much better, much more focused horror title.
Review by: Nick Walge | Reviewed on: Playstation 4